At least a dozen times a week, someone asks me about buying a tablet. Inevitably, their one main question is, "Should I get the no-frills $499 version of the newest iPad or the fully loaded $829 model?" (By the way, we're talking about the latest iPad, the device we all keep calling the "iPad 3," even though Apple's gone all Prince/Artist-Formerly-Known-As and is just calling it the "iPad.") Anyway, my response is always to ask a few questions back that help me zero in on their particular tablet traits: Why do you want a tablet? What will you use it for? How much money do you want to spend? And what kind of smartphone and laptop do you already have?
When it comes to getting a new tablet, the choice isn't between the latest, greatest iPad or nothing. Like so many other personal technology devices from your smartphone to your exercise gadget, tablets are not one size fits all. Sure, the newest iPad is nothing short of the bang-up brilliance we've come to expect from Apple, but there might be another make, model, style, or size that's a better fit for you. Here's a guide based on personality types to help you figure it all out.
You're hip, trendy (but not for trend's sake — you just happen to be ahead of the curve), and pretty darn cool. Most people appreciate your style, but what they really admire is how easy you make it all look. You have the extra dough to spend on the best of everything, as long as it's high quality, intuitive, and totally headache-free.
For you, the newest iPad is the obvious choice. The screen is like an HDTV, with vibrant color and eye-popping definition. Battery life is better now, and it's 4G fast. Consumer Reports has even ranked it the best tablet on the market. So what's not to love? The price tag, for starters. Starting at $499 for the bare-bones model, it's just too expensive for a whole lot of people. Which leads us right to personality type two...
You are fabulous and frugal. You just don't see the point in paying for what you won't need or use. You want a tablet to surf the web, check your email, watch movies, and most of all, to lighten your load while you cart around a small library of literature to feed your bookworm ways.
The Amazon Kindle Fire is a perfect choice for you. At $200, this low-cost, high-quality hybrid e-reader is a savvy buy. It's a small, portable powerhouse with long-lasting battery life. While it doesn't have the hundreds of thousands of apps that the iPad has (no other device does), it has free cloud storage for all Amazon content, including more than 20 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and — of course — books.
What: Lenovo IdeaPad A1
You go one step beyond the Penny Pincher. Armed with digital coupons and savvy shopping apps, you do your homework on everything from a gallon of milk to a gallon of gasoline. You still want and need to be totally tech'd out, but you love a good bargain the way a Kardashian loves a camera pointed her way. Because you like a bargain, your smartphone is likely an Android (more choice for lower prices), and I recommend staying in the same gadget family you're most familiar with.
For you, the Lenovo IdeaPad A1 could be a little slice of the high life for a price your piggy bank can handle. This 7-inch, lightweight yet rugged tablet is great on the go. It even has a unique offline GPS navigation technology that gives you a direct satellite link. That means no more worries about network availability, and no more getting lost on the way to your son's soccer game. It also comes in different colors such as hot pink or blue.
Sony Tablet S
What: Sony Tablet S
Sony Tablet S
You're the life of the party, the hostess with the mostess, the unrivaled director of fun. Whenever there's a big game, a night of karaoke, or the season finale of Dancing With the Stars, you're at the center of all the action. You have fun, whether you have to save or you're in a position to splurge. For you, it's all about the overall experience.
The Sony Tablet S is your new go-to gadget. This sleek, multimedia device lets you send video to your TV with a simple tap and doubles as a universal remote control. With a 9.4-inch screen, eight hours of battery life, and a cool, wedge-shaped build, the Sony S makes typing and gaming in your lap feel more natural than ever. This just happens to be one of my personal favorites, though I'm more the wife of the life of the party.
You're hip, happening, and always hot on the trail of that special something everyone will soon be talking about. You're attracted to James Bond-esque gadgets, devices that go that extra mile to be sleek, sophisticated, and just plain cool.
For you, it's hard to beat the new Sony Tablet P. It's the size of a woman's wallet and folds out with two separate 5.5-inch screens. This comes in handy for doing things like playing a game on the upper screen while using the lower one as your controller. You can also read e-books in a more traditional, two-page book format. Or you can check emails on one screen while doing a little online shopping at the same time. If you want to stream a movie, the two screens can also act as one for a larger overall screening surface. The Tablet P fits into the palm of your hand and slips into your purse or even back pocket.
What: Toshiba Thrive
You are a PC. You hate all things Apple; you've even developed a dislike for real apples. You wouldn't own an Apple product if Steve Jobs flew down on a new set of superiorly designed angel's wings and app'd you out for life.
The Toshiba Thrive is the ultimate anti-iPad and really highlights what the iPad doesn't have, such as a full USB port, full SD card memory expansion, and a full HDMI port. Why might you want all that? The USB port lets you plug in a thumb drive to play music, movies, or use your tablet like a PC. You can use the HDMI port to plug your slate into an HDTV, without a special adapter, wifi, or the cloud. You can even pop the cover off to recharge with a replaceable battery. You can't do any of that with the iPad.
More great slates than can fit on a page
There are a lot more really great tablets on the market today, and we've written about them extensively at Tecca. Here are a few of my other favorites:
- Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime A tablet when you want it, a laptop when you need it.
- Samsung Galaxy Tab series Some of the best and most affordable Android tablets yet.
- Toshiba's Excite X10 The new 10-inch Android tablet lays claim to the new "world's thinnest" title.
- Motorola Droid Xyboard Another multitasking masterpiece, this tablet also comes with water-repellent nanocoating for those among us who tend to ride our gadgets hard and put them away wet.
Sometimes old is the best "new"
Don't forget that you can get a great new or refurbished iPad 2 in the $300 range from reputable resellers like Glyde, Amazon, and NextWorth. Unless you have the older model right next to the newer one, most people (tech experts excluded) can't tell much of a difference.
What tablet best fits your particular personality? Let us know in the comments section of this page.
More from Tecca:
- New iPad: Your complete guide to Apple's newest tablet
- The best Android tablets out there
- Should you buy an iPad or an Android tablet?
- Technology & Electronics
- Handheld & Connected Devices